Call it “trickle-down networking” if you like. But what has long been possible—and even best practice— in data center networking is now moving aggressively into and onto campus networking ecosystems. And with that move companies and organizations can realize numerous benefits in or on the campus networks they own or operate. As readers peruse this list of potential benisons, they’ll undoubtedly hit hot buttons with their users (thanks to increased features and functionality) and with management (thanks to cost savings and improved efficiencies that reduce staff time commitments and involvement).

Delivering key capabilities

With the adoption of data center tools and technologies in campus networks, a handful of key capabilities becomes available throughout. These include Power over Ethernet (PoE), which makes it possible to extend services more easily and affordably, and to integrate Internet of Things (IoT) capabilities more directly (such as sensors, surveillance cameras, ID badge readers and so forth). In addition, networks gain ready access to 802.1X capabilities when they adopt a data center model, including improved and more powerful authentication mechanisms, as well as access and security control.

Moving to data center-oriented networks usually also brings voice VLANs into the networking picture. This not only offers better support for and integration of voice traffic onto the network, it also permits companies to adopt digital and virtual PBX replacements (thereby providing a ready migration path away from dedicated legacy PBX systems and gear).

Finally, adopting a data center approach to networking also introduces improved automation tools and techniques. This brings to campus networks improved automation for initial configuration and setup (provisioning). But it also permits VLANs to access multiple switches, and enables users (and applications) to become more mobile and widely accessible across the entire infrastructure.

Infrastructure as code

A powerful combination of Ansible (the Open Stack deployment and configuration environment originally developed at Red Hat, now Open Source) and Python (a powerful and capable yet easy-to learn interpreted programming language) enables a new approach to standard network configurations and VLANs. This widely practiced data center approach to deployment and management brings the same standard capabilities and predefined elements to campus networks. Thus, staff no longer has to spend hours at the command line getting things set up and making sure they’re right.

Better yet, infrastructure as code (IaC) permits failing or damaged configurations to be replaced quickly and easily with known, good working scripts. This replaces time-consuming troubleshooting efforts with bare-metal restores that bring back pristine setups and configurations. Likewise, this technique makes over-writing old, outdated configurations with new ones on production networks a snap, once they’ve been defined, tested and vetted in test environments beforehand. Ditto again for provisioning and change management, which also become a matter of “out with the old, and in with the new,” rather than time-consuming, line-at-a-time command-line inputs.

A uniform network operating model

Moving to a data center model for networking lets campus networks leverage data center compute and network tools. Because they’re based on familiar, well-understood Linux components and environments, IT staff already knows how to use them and put them to work. This lets organizations build on existing staff skills and knowledge. It also helps reduce hardware acquisition and support contract costs by allowing the campus network to adopt open, multi-sourced Linux-based compute, storage and network equipment.

Supply chain freedom ahead

The switchover to Linux-focused networking equipment and software offers companies and organizations a way out of vendor dependencies. They can jump on this bandwagon to swap out proprietary legacy hardware and software—and the costs and complexities that come with them—for commodity merchant silicon and an open networking OS, tools and software. Thus, they can avoid vendor lock-in. Looking ahead, this move also eases the impact of future technology changes and platform migrations still to come. It will undoubtedly make it less expensive, time-consuming and difficult to incorporate emerging higher-speed networking technologies on campus networks (40 Gbps and higher), just as it has already done in data centers, even at the largest scales.

Improved control and flexibility

An open, standards-based, Linux networking environment lets companies and organizations manage all network infrastructure elements using a single, coherent and well-understood set of tools, techniques and best practices. This not only promotes advanced automation and improved staff efficiency, but also rapid responses to changing user demand and compute, storage and networking needs. It also makes it easy and affordable to keep spares on hand for quick swap-outs should component or device failures or problems pop up (the same restores that support “bare metal” restores work on new equipment, too). Thus, there’s no need to pay (and wait) for expensive onsite service from third-party service providers or vendor field engineers.

Bottom line: more for less

A modern campus network offers simplified architecture, streamlined operations and more straightforward DevOps. It also offers a smooth lifecycle with cost efficiencies both above the line (OpEx) and below the line (CapEx). Why not take a look at what’s available from Cumulus today? Learn more about our campus solution here.